Remnant of famous Morecambe WW1 factory ‘too important’ to demolish

Weighing explosives for the shells at the White Lund factory which came to grief in 1917. Picture courtesy of Lancaster City Museum.
Weighing explosives for the shells at the White Lund factory which came to grief in 1917. Picture courtesy of Lancaster City Museum.

A plan to demolish part of White Lund’s old First World War munitions factory has been called into question by town planners.

Lancaster City Council planning officers say the former electrical power house which served the town’s famous National Filling Factory is of too much historical importance to knock down.

Morecambe company Bay Scaffolding want to demolish the old brick building on Northgate to make way for four modern industrial units.

But a report recommends the plans be refused – this in the week that events were being held to mark 100 years since a major explosion at the White Lund factory.

The building was built in 1915-16 to supply electricity to the First World War Munitions Plant known as National Filling Factory No.13 – which employed more than 4,600 people.

It housed the steam turbines which generated electricity for the factory, the overall role of which was to fill shells with amatol (a mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT).

In October 1917 there was a major fire at the factory, resulting in a sequence of explosions, which together destroyed almost all the buildings. Part of the power house survived.

The factory was then rebuilt in brick and continued in use for filling shells until 1918 and after the war ended, it was used for defusing munitions.

Planners say that although it is not a listed building it is classed as a “non-designated heritage asset” and is one of the last remnants of the factory.

“Whilst its setting within the Filling Factory has been almost entirely lost by the redevelopment as an industrial estate, it is considered that it provides an important visual link to the past, including in relation to the role that it played during the First World War as one of the National Filling Factories,” said a council report.

Bay Scaffolding wants to build four new industrial units, install a raised replacement roof and build a single storey infill extension to the front and first floor side extension to an existing unit.

This is their second planning application for the work this year; the first was withdrawn.

We contacted Bay Scaffolding for comment and had received no response as we went to press.

There is currently an exhibition at Lancaster City Museum called ‘Boom Town from Front Line to White Lund’, marking the centenary of the explosions at the Filling Factory.

Lancaster City Council planning committee will make a final decision at a meeting next Monday (October 16) at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30am.